Greeting card outposts are powerful tools for supermarkets because they not only spark impulse sales, but also promote the main card department.
"They're like a billboard to the card department," said Richard White, integrated marketing manager, Ambassador Cards, Kansas City, Mo. Getting customers to the card aisle is important because once consumers see greeting cards, they're likely to purchase not one, but several, White added.
"You don't have to create a need for these products; it's already there," he said. "You just have to remind consumers of the need." Which is what outposts are designed to do. According to suppliers polled by SN, they remind consumers of upcoming birthdays and special occasions.
The way outposts are displayed depends on where retailers seek to catch traffic. Some stores use them at checkstands, while others put them in grocery aisles. According to Ambassador, Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., outposts its baby cards near its baby food, while Smith's Food & Drug Centers, Salt Lake City, offers a checkstand outpost.
Outposts are highly successful at checkstands, where they spark impulse sales. Ambassador cards merchandised at checkstands sell about five times the rate of regular cards, said Mark Leonard, an Ambassador marketing strategist. Ambassador began testing its checkstand outposts about two years ago, and officially began using them last July. At present, 20 supermarket chains, or 1,000 stores, are using them. American Greetings, Cleveland, offers two different checkstand outposts: the Optimum Outpost, a metal A-frame that holds greetings cards, stickers, gift bags and wrapping paper, and the Checkstand Spinner, which can be attached to magazine racks.
The Optimum Outpost can be used to block closed checkout lanes, as well as in sections featuring related merchandise, such as flowers and candy. They even can augment the card aisle, said Sara Eames, marketing/public relations coordinator.
American also offers a checkstand spinner, which has eight card pockets that hold six of each "Forget Me Not" best-selling alternative cards.
"These units actually turn people back to the greeting card department," said Eames.
Among its outpost programs, Gibson Greetings, Cincinnati, offers outposts that are run in conjunction with sales promotions, according to Pete Gaietto, director of retail environment.
"We look for natural synergies -- promotions that we know will go well together," he said.
Gaietto said one of the benefits of outposts is that they show shoppers that specialty card stores aren't the only place to buy cards. "In most cases, supermarkets don't have the linear square feet to compete with card shop," he said. "Outposting helps supermarket expand and take secondary ancillary items."
Gibson's new 1995 outpost offerings include the Floral Card Spinner, an outpost made especially for the floral department. The unit, which measures 18 inches by 18 inches, displays cards on the side and bouquet and arrangements up the center.